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Christmas Festive Trifle

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If you’re looking for a beautiful and colourful trifle for the festive season, this one is great and pretty easy.

I made it for last year’s festivities when I had a large gathering of family and friends for a post Christmas lunch. It was 40 degrees C and so hot! A cool dessert was definitely what we were all after!

The recipe is adapted from a recipe created by Queen Vanilla products and Dr Oetker products. I liked the idea of the cheesecake filling instead of custard and cream. The recipe also created some green chocolate bark, which I thought pretty festive too.

Ingredients

Cake and berries:

4 x 250g punnets berries (strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, or any others you fancy). Frozen berries are fine too, I used a mixture of both.

A good slosh of an orange liqueur (Cointreau, Grand Marnier)

A little caster sugar to taste if the berries are too sharp in flavour

2 sponge cake layers (bought is fine here as it’s only going to be dowsed in liqueur and berry juice)

Cheesecake filling:

280g cream cheese

90g unsalted butter

2 2/3 cups icing sugar

1 tsp vanilla bean paste

450 mls cream

Green chocolate bark:

150g original Oreos roughly blitzed in the food processor – you should have some bigger bits and some crumbs

300g white chocolate

A few drops green food colouring

Method

Combine all the berries in bowl, leaving a good handful for decorating the top of the trifle. You should cut the strawberries in halves unless they are tiny. Splosh on some orange liqueur, and add a little caster sugar to taste if the berries need sweetening. Leave for a few hours to allow the berries to release their juices.

Cut up the sponge into squares about 5 cms 0r 2 inches. It really doesn’t matter too much – they just need to be able to fit into your trifle bowl. You will also need to cut some odd shapes to fill in the gaps. Make a layer of sponge on the bottom of the bowl. Add a decent layer of berries, making sure you spoon some of the liquid over the cake so that it turns red.

To make the cheesecake filling, beat cream cheese and butter with an electric mixer until smooth and creamy. Add icing sugar gradually, beating till the mixture is well combined. Add the vanilla bean paste. Whip the cream in separate bowl until just thickened, then fold into the cheesecake mixture.

Add layer of cheesecake mixture to the berries layer in the trifle bowl.

Repeat the layering – sponge, berries and juices and cheesecake mixture, ending with a berry layer. The number of layers you get will depend on the size of your bowl and your generosity in layering. As you can see from the photo I got 3 layers of sponge and berries and 2 of cheesecake mixture. You should leave enough of the cheesecake mixture to decorate the top (3 tablespoons or so should do it). Refrigerate until ready to finish the decorations and serve.

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Midnight Oil: Back Home and Back in Form


Wow! Back home the Oils were at their energetic and acerbic best in the Hunter Valley in October, delivering raw powerful rock with a not so subltle message,  exhorting us to save our planet and save our species (morally at least) from further destructive acts.

We’re at Hope Estate. It’s Saturday 21 October and we were about to witness the much anticipated – and much hyped – return of Midnight Oil to the stage. I write this post on the day of the culminating Oz event for the Oils,  the concert in the Domain in Sydney, Saturday 11 November. Which will be mega, as they play to their home town crowd.

We were back in the Hunter too. The Doctors and the Rock Chick, who has been my partner in crime in lots of adventures. We’ve been to many gigs over the years – who could forget Led Zeppelin in 1972? We were young, single and fancy free, but now at least we’re single once more and still very much fancy free!

After a world tour that took them to venues in both hemispheres, Midnight Oil were back home and back in form!

The weather behaved – a classic Hunter Valley spring night – cloudless, inky black and starry.

Hope Estate was packed, with a capacity crowd usually only seen for uber celebrity rock acts like the Stones or the Boss. The crowd spanned the ages, mums and dads, little kids, grandads and grandmums, and loads of Gen Xs who grew up on  the music. The Gen Ys seemed a little mystified with the rock star reverence that their parents were showing as iconic song followed iconic song.

The band played for a non-stop 2 hours. So much energy on stage! Rob Hirst’s drum solo was exhilarating, so much Power in his drumming with so much undoubted Passion!

But it’s front man Peter Garrett who is the riveting performer onstage. His voice, punching out the lyrics, his literally huge presence, and his Joe Cocker like disjointed strutting  across the stage, are what Midnight Oil are all about.

And we are left in no doubt about the message. The Oils may not directly directly influence politics, but it’s clear that their huge following may just be the ones to start off that process of social change.

Peter, your music speaks so much louder than your politics…

Set List Saturday 21 October 

Redneck Wonderland

Read About It

In The Valley

Stand in Line

River Runs Red

Truganini

Hercules

My Country

When the Generals Talk

Short Memory

US Forces

Kosciusko

Only the Strong

Put Down That Weapon

Beds Are Burning

Blue Sky Mine

Forgotten Years

Dreamworld

Encore:

The Dead Heart

Power and the Passion

Best of Both Worlds

Encore 2:

King of the Mountain

 

 

Strawberry Scone Cake

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This is a scone recipe that’s pretty well known, using lemonade and cream.

I’m not completely convinced that this combination is better than sugar and butter. Anyway, I gave this recipe a go. It’s from The Australian Women’s Weekly Love to Bake. They call it “Strawberry Bliss Scones”, but I think it’s more of a scone cake. It’s filled with fresh strawberries and white chocolate.

Here’s the recipe with a few tweaks. I took the oven temperature down to 200 degrees C from the recommended 220 degrees C which I thought was too hot.

Ingredients

525g self-raising flour
150g white chocolate, cut into 5mm pieces
250m chilled lemonade
1 cup cream
150g strawberries, cut into 5mm pieces
1 tbls icing sugar

Method

Preheat oven to 200 degrees C. Line 2 trays with baking paper.

Sift flour into a large bowl and mix in chocolate. Combine lemonade and cream in a jug and pour  over the flour mixture.

Using a knife, cut liquid through flour mixture until it starts to clump. Add strawberries and continue to combine until the mixture comes together forming a dough. Be careful not to over work or the dough will be tough.

Divide dough in half. Shape one half into an 18cm round on 1 tray with floured hands. Mark the round into 4 wedges, using the back of a floured knife. Repeat with the remaining dough and tray.

Bake scone cakes for 25 minutes, swapping trays on shelves halfway through cooking time, or until tops are golden brown.

Dust scones with sifted icing sugar. Serve in wedges as is or with more cream!

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Cherry and Almond Traybake

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I’m a huge fan of the Great British Bake-off. I have watched every episode of every season…a few times!

Kimberley Wilson was a contestant on GBBO in 2013, and I loved her bakes on the program. Her Very Cherry and Almond Traybake really caught my eye  – and tastebuds. The link to the recipe on Kimberley’s website is here.

Here is Kimberley’s recipe, with any tweakings that I made.

Ingredients

For the base:

90g unsalted butter, softened
90g caster sugar
1 large free-range egg, beaten
110g plain flour
20g self-raising flour
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
Pinch of salt

For the filling:

6-8 tablespoons of morello cherry jam (I left this out)
40g dried sour cherries, chopped
5 maraschino cherries chopped

Frangipane:

90g unsalted butter, softened
80g caster sugar
2 large free-range eggs, beaten
180g ground almonds
30g plain flour
A few drops almond extract
Zest of a lemon
Pinch of salt

Topping:

60g unsalted butter
60g caster sugar
1tbsp runny honey
60g flaked almonds (I used macadamias)
40g dried sour cherries, chopped
30g glacé cherries, chopped

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Method

Heat the oven to 180 C degrees or 160 C degrees fan-forced. Line a 18cm x 27cm x 3cm baking tray with baking paper leaving 5cm excess on all sides.

Combine the ingredients for the base in a bowl and mix. Dollop the mixture into the lined tray and using the back of a spoon, smooth out the batter to create an even base.

Combine the ingredients for the filling and spoon across the base.

Combine the ingredients for the frangipane and mix until smooth. Put spoonfuls of the frangipane  over the cherry layer and then, with a fork, push the batter across to create a smooth layer. Even the surface with the back of a spoon.

Place in the centre of the oven and bake for 20-23minutes until the top is puffed and golden.

About 15 minutes into the cooking time, put all of the ingredients for the topping into a saucepan. Place over a low heat and stir gently until the butter and sugar has melted. Turn up the heat and simmer for three minutes.

Remove the traybake from the oven and pour the topping over the surface. Using the back of a metal spoon, spread and smooth the topping all over the frangipane.

Return to the oven and bake for 8-10 minutes until the nuts are golden and the honey syrup is bubbling all over.

To get a really neat finish on the portions the traybake needs to be cut upside-down, so that you are cutting the nutty topping against the firm surface of a chopping board.

Remove the traybake from the oven and cool in the tin for 15 minutes. This allows for the topping to cool and set a little so that it does not stick to the board when you turn it out. Place a clean chopping board on top of the bake and, wearing oven gloves, flip it over. Peel away the baking paper and place a wire rack, upside down, on the bake. Flip again and remove the chopping board. Cool completely on the rack.

When cool, replace the chopping board gently on top and flip the bake as above. Using a large, sharp knife trim the edges and then cut into portions.

Delicious straight away and keeps well if you put it into an airtight tin.

 

Lemon and Ricotta Cake

I recently had a great ricotta cake at the Carriageworks Farmers Market – a fantastic fresh produce market in Eveleigh, in Sydney. The cake had a great texture and was quite delicious.

So  I decided to make a ricotta cake with a lemon theme – lemon zest and juice in the cake, and also lemon thyme, my all time favourite herb!

The cake was beautifully moist, the ricotta really helping out here. Adding lashings of buttercream icing and the result was complete lemon lusciousness!

Ingredients

Cake

150g butter

200g caster sugar

3 free range eggs

200g self raising flour

1 tsp baking flour

200g ricotta

Juice of half a lemon

Zest of a whole lemon

A few sprigs of lemon thyme + extra to decorate

Icing

100g softened butter

200g icing sugar

Juice of a lemon

Method

Preheat the oven to 170 degrees fan forced. Grease a 20cm springform tin (or 22cm tin for a slightly flatter cake), and line the bottom with baking paper. Cream the butter and sugar in an electric mixer until well mixed and light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, making sure to mix until the eggs are well incorporated.

Fold in the self raising flour and baking powder. Fold in the ricotta until incorporated, but being careful to not mix with too a heavy hand. Mix in the lemon juice and zest and the leaves from a few sprigs of thyme.

Spoon into the prepared tin, and bake for 35-45 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. Remove from the oven and cool for 10 minutes before removing the outer ring of the tin and carefully sliding off the base.

For the icing, cream the butter and icing sugar with enough of the lemon juice to make a lovely lemony  frosting.

Liberslly ice the cake with a thick layer of butter cream. Scatter some thyme sprigs on top for decoration. I added some candied lemon slices, but in hindsight the cake doesn’t really need them!

 

 

 


 

Praline and Nutella Ice Cream

This is the easiest ice cream as it’s no churn, ie you don’t have to use an ice cream maker. The basic ice cream mix is from a recipe from the wonderful Annabel Langbein, See here for the link to a recipe for the simple Ice Cream Base.

I have made this ice cream many times with lots of variations. I blogged My Passionfruit Ice Cream Slice a while back.

So here is the recipe for ice cream with lots of nuts, toffee, peanut butter and Nutella! Great on it’s own but even nicer in a waffle cone!

Ingredients 

Praline

3 tbls caster sugar
75g nuts – macadamias, hazelnuts, almonds work well

Ice Cream Base

3 eggs
10 tbsp caster sugar, divided in half
2 tbsp boiling water
2 cups cream, chilled

2 tbls peanut butter
1 tbls Nutella

Method

For the praline, spread the nuts onto a piece of baking paper on baking tray. Put the caster sugar in an even layer over the bottom of a heavy based frying pan. Carefully melt the sugar over a medium heat, being careful not to stir the sugar or it will crystalize. Once the sugar has melted and turned a tea colour, carefully pour the hot toffee over the nuts and allow to set.

Once set, break the praline into two. Bash one half into smaller pieces. Grind the other half to a fine powder.

For the ice cream, line two small  loaf tins with cling wrap, making sure the clingwrap overhangs the tins for easy removal of the ice cream. You could also use 6 large silicone muffin mounds. You could line them too, but the ice creams should just slip out if you run a hot knife round the edges.

To make the Ice Cream Base, separate the eggs. Place the egg whites in your largest bowl and the egg yolks in a smaller bowl, ensuring no yolk gets mixed in with the whites. Add 5 tbsp of the caster sugar to the egg whites and beat until the mixture forms stiff peaks (about 6-7 minutes). Set aside.

Add the remaining 5 tbsp of caster sugar and the boiling water to the bowl containing the three egg yolks. Beat until pale, thick and ribbony. You will know it is ready when it holds a figure of eight.

In a third bowl, beat the cream to soft peaks. Gently fold the egg yolks and cream into the beaten egg whites using a large flat spoon. This is your Ice Cream Base.

Fold in the praline pieces and the praline powder, and the peanut butter. Spoon the ice cream into the loaf tins or mounds. You can stir through the Nutella at this point, or as I did, ripple in the Nutella after the ice cream has been in the freezer for 30 minutes. This creates a more defined swirl.

Place in the freezer for several hours. If freezing for longer than that, cover to prevent freezer burn or flavour taint.

To serve, remove from the fridge and scoop into waffle cones, or lift out of the tin and cut into slices.

Drizzle with more Nutella, or sprinkle with any left over praline pieces, if you like.

Oat Crumble Chocolate Chip Cookies

Cookies –  chewy or crisp, risen or flat,  there are so many decisions to be made by the baker who’s in search of Cookie Nirvana! I have made so many recipes, followed instructions or tweaked the recipes, just to get the version I like.

I stumbled across this cookie incarnation by chance, when I had some left over crumble mixture. I added a few ingredients, shaped the mixture into balls, chilled in the fridge for 1/2 hour, then stuck them in the oven. The result was nice big pillowy cookies. which were dense and slightly chewy, just like I like them!

I’ve made them heaps of times since, just to make sure the recipe works. And it does. Every time!

The secret to the plump shape of the cookies is definitely chilling the balls in the fridge first before baking.

Ingredients

1 cup rolled oats

1/2 cup ground almonds

3/4 cup brown sugar

1 cup plain flour

1/2 cup roughly chopped nuts (macadamias or pecans work well)

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon 

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger 

125 g melted butter

1/2 cup condensed milk

1/2 cup chocolate chips of your choice (dark, milk or white)

Method

Place all the ingredients  except the condensed milk and chocolate chips in a large bowl and mix well to combine. Or put the ingredients into a food processor and pulse gently to combine. If you do this, be careful not to overmix. You want a crumbly texture, not a mushy paste!

Add the condensed milk. This will loosen the mixture and make it easier to shape into balls. You may need to add a little more if the mixture is still too dry. Stir through the chocolate chips.

Preheat the oven to 160 degrees fan-forced. Line 2 baking trays with baking paper.

Shape large teaspoonfuls of the mixture into balls and place on the baking trays, at least 2 centimetres apart to allow for spreading in the oven. Pace trays in the fridge for at least half an hour.

Take the trays out of the fridge, and before putting in the oven, flatten the balls slightly with your thumb or the back of a spoon. Bake for about 15 minutes or until golden brown and cooked through.

Cool on the trays for 5 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

These cookies can be frozen before baking, and frozen after baking too, so one way or another, you can always have cookies on hand!

 

 

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